Saturday, 2 August 2014

Patients respond to robotic friends

Patients with dementia in Yorkshire are communicating more thanks to a companion robot introduced in a new venture by health chiefs which is believed to be a national first.

The PARO Seal is an advanced interactive robot with tactile sensors which responds to sounds and can show emotions such as surprise and happiness.

When stroked, it moves its head and body and opens and closes its eyes. Left untouched, it will call out to engage the person holding it, but will also “sleep”, encouraging the patient to settle.

Claire Jepson, an occupational therapist at Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust, said: “PARO helps calm and relax service users and can distract and reassure them if they are distressed by situations such as having their blood taken or being assisted with self-care.

“The seal is not intended to replace human contact and interaction, but rather to complement and enhance it.

“It is not just a stuffed toy, it is much more sophisticated and interactive than that, and it is fascinating to see how people engage with it.

“One man whose condition means he is often dealing with high levels of distress sat in the garden with PARO and, when she visited, his wife couldn’t believe how contented he was.

“Another lady often carries it around with her – reassuring the seal by grooming it helps soothe her in turn.”